Tuesday

God is not fair

A recent blog posted by Deborah Mitchell, or TXBlue08, on CNN has caught my attention. Mitchell, who is a mother of teenagers, authors a blog called "Kids Without Religion."

In a CNN iReport, "Why I Raise My Children Without God", Mitchell explains that she writes the blog because she '... just felt there is not a voice out there for women/moms like me. I think people misunderstand or are fearful of people who don’t believe in God.'

In the first part of this series, I addressed her first point, God is a bad parent and a role model, then we looked at God is not logical. Now we'll discuss God is not fair.

Mitchell writes:

If God is fair, then why does he answer the silly prayers of some while allowing other, serious requests, to go unanswered? I have known people who pray that they can find money to buy new furniture. (Answered.) I have known people who pray to God to help them win a soccer match. (Answered.) Why are the prayers of parents with dying children not answered?

If God is fair, then why are some babies born with heart defects, autism, missing limbs or conjoined to another baby? Clearly, all men are not created equally. Why is a good man beaten senseless on the street while an evil man finds great wealth taking advantage of others? This is not fair. A game maker who allows luck to rule mankind’s existence has not created a fair game

In this complaint, Ms. Mitchell addresses the issue of prayer. Why does God answer certain prayers and not others? Why does God answer "insignificant" requests - "silly prayers" while leaving the "more important" requests alone?

These issues have nothing to do with whether or not God is fair. The problem is that we do not understand why bad things happen. The "silly prayers" that God seemingly answers may not be God's replies at all. It may be that finding money for furniture or the soccer team winning just happened. Those events could have happened whether the one praying had prayed for them or not. Sometimes I wonder if God has time to listen to my "silly prayers."

Then, I remember that Jesus said that God notices when a small sparrow falls from the sky. I also remember the many times when I have needed clarification on a "silly thing" like figuring out a crochet pattern or finding my keys and the idea came to mind right away or my eyes fell upon the misplaced object right after I prayed. If God notices when a sparrow falls, then it is possible that God also notices when I am frustrated. Sometimes I think God answers my "silly prayers" because we're friends. He has also answered some of my more meaningful prayers, but rarely did the answers come right away.

Other times, God convicts me for praying silly prayers. God says, "Why are you praying for that when people need me? Pray for them." When this happens, I apologize and then pray for people. It's easy to become trivial. This happens when I am wrapped up in my own world.

When I was a little girl, I learned in Sunday school that God always answers prayer. God's answer might be "yes," but it could also be "wait," or the reply may be "no." The last two answers are never easy for us. We want what we want, and we usually want it now. We cannot understand why a loving God would say "no" or why God would make us wait, but he does.

Last week I shared that my first husband died from pancreatic cancer. It appears that God ignored hundreds of prayers on my husband's behalf. Also, while Gordon was in the hospital he prayed that God would allow him to see his sons graduate from high school. That prayer was not answered in the affirmative. God has also not answered my questions about why it happened. On the other hand, my present husband's first wife died of a form of lung cancer. He prayed that she would be a 'one percenter', which was then the five year survival rate for that cancer. He prayed that she would beat the odds. She did. God answered that prayer. Even though she died, she still lived much longer than expected. So why did God answer Mike's prayer and not Gordon's? Why does God allow people to die? Why do children suffer terrible deaths? Why do the innocent suffer while evil people get what they want? I don't know. The psalmists and the prophets ask similar questions in the Bible. Does God answer their questions?

Yes, but not always in the way they expected.

When my children expressed that it wasn't fair that God had allowed their dad to die, I reminded them that life wasn't fair. The rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous just like the Teacher wrote about in Ecclesiastes. Then I reminded them about some of the wonderful things that happened during Gordon's illness and I tell them that we may not understand why this happened but that God expressed goodness to our family in immeasurable ways.

Sometimes God's answer is that we just have to trust him. There's no other way around it. The revelations for why some things happen may come later, either in this life or the one to come. However, do I trust God enough to stay in relationship if the answers never come? That is a question we must ask ourselves. There's no reason to think that the Creator owes us anything. Who are we to hold God responsible for answering some prayers and not others? Who are we to give up believing in God because God doesn't act the way we think he should? This is the essence of the story of Job, which Robert Selzer discusses here.

The questions we ask, seeking an answer to the 'why' of it all, are timeless. Some of this is discussed in 'God on Trial,' a story from Auschwitz, when the Jewish prisoners there are said to have put God on trial for the horrors being inflicted upon them. I highly recommend this Masterpiece Theater production. It may not answer your questions, but it certainly illustrates that you are not alone in asking them, and your feelings about how such questions are - or are seemingly not -answered.

And, here is the conclusion of the matter, according to the Teacher in Ecclesiastes:

Now all has been heard;

here is the conclusion of the matter:

Fear God and keep his commandments,

for this is the duty of all mankind.

For God will bring every deed into judgment,

including every hidden thing,

whether it is good or evil.

Next week we'll discuss "God does not protect the innocent" and "God is not present".